On the first day of school, everyone had to queue to enter the building. A thermal camera was installed to measure the temperature, and everyone had to show their health declaration form.
The outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019 has affected our lives in many ways, including education. Right after the outbreak, Asia University (AU) took immediate action to combat this pandemic. On the one hand, the university postponed all the coming of International degree-seeking students for the Spring semester, 2020. The school also temporarily suspended all traditional face-to-to class teaching and adopted on-line teaching mode until after the mid-term exam when the virus condition was gradually under control. On the other hand, the university established an integrated system to prevent the spread of the virus by setting up checkpoints to control the visit to the campus. So far, the hard efforts have paid off since not a single confirmed case is found on AU campus.
Taiwan Centers of Disease Control (CDC) has urged all citizens to wear surgical masks while coughing and sneezing, to wash hands thoroughly with soap, and to avoid crowded places, including the hospital. Ministry of Education (MOE) has also announced that if one positive case occurs, the whole class will be dismissed, and if there are two positive cases, the whole school will be closed for 14 days. Therefore, the university has taken proactive precaution measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Many international students at AU went home during the winter break. However, after the outbreak, many countries closed their borders and made it impossible for them to return to school. Besides, several imported cases were detected in Taiwan at the very beginning of the pandemic outbreak. Therefore, all classes were forced to go online during the first half of the semester.
Online teaching and learning, though not a new thing, still poses some challenges to professors and students as well. The students were having some trouble adapting themselves to the new way of learning. In an interview, Miss Adienda Saman, a student from the Department of Finance , said, “it is hard to adjust myself to the online learning. It is hard to keep up the motivation because I learn better if I can see the teacher explaining directly to the students in class. Professors also try their best to ensure that we understand the materials. The problems are also inevitable for the professors who need to learn how to conduct the class by using Microsoft Teams, to meet their students online, to give enough assignments and to adjust the syllabus according to the real teaching scenario.” Despite all the struggles, students and professors are able to work their way out together during the online class. Online teaching and learning is gaining momentum and will soon become a “new normal”.
For the Taiwanese, the rampage of COVID-19 brings back the painful memories of SARS in 2014. With this unprecedented experience, AU has taken this global crisis seriously. The first action was to limit the entrance access to each building: only one entrance was allowed for each building. Secondly, all the university staff members were assigned to take a 2-hour shift to stand at the entrance of each campus building. Everyone who entered the building had to display their health declaration form, which would show their travel history and health condition. Furthermore, the university also provided enough sanitation materials at each control point, including toilet paper, 75% alcohol pump and infrared thermometer.
AU also took serious care of the students who just came back to Taiwan from their home countries. They were required to inform the International College of their travel history and meanwhile to take a 14-day self-quarantine. They were not allowed to enter the campus buildings until the quarantine period was over.
(a) The first page
(b)The questions inside the form
At an international web conference on the COVID-19, Prof. Yinghuei Chen, Dean of International College at Asia University, talked about the social and cultural impacts of COVID-19. He stated that privacy and health must go hand-in-hand. Citizens need to be able to enjoy both, instead of having to make an either-or choice. (repeating!)
(c) permission to collect personal information as the way to protect everyone’s privacy and safety alike
Prof. Chen also shared several essential things that had been done by AU for the well-being of all members of the university. He stated that two more things are important, other than the health declaration form, during this pandemic crisis:
- Transparency of information: It is important to share with the public openly the true information about the COVID-19. In Taiwan, the government has tried its best to keep the citizens informed and updated about the development of this virus. With this transparency of information , the citizen will be able to screen rumors or false information and thereby to avoid any unnecessary panic. Honest reporting and facts matter in the time of crisis. AU also follows this principle in facing the crisis. Transparency has played a key role in combating COVID-19 in Taiwan.
- Right attitude: It is important to raise the public awareness of the danger of the virus. Their awareness raising will help them gain a better understanding of the danger, and thus be more willing to actively follow the rules to ensure their safety. What is more important than simply giving people orders to obey is to educate them and give them the knowledge that will raise their consciousness . Instead of imposing totalitarian surveillance on all the citizens, Taiwan has chosen citizen empowerment as an efficient way to combat the pandemic.
Some bits of advice to raise awareness and protect our health
QR code for accessing the health declaration form
It has been more than six months since AU applied all the actions necessary to ensure everyone’s safety. AU has been successful in controlling the situation. In an interview, Miss Panita, a second-year Master student at the Department of Business Administration, stated, “For my life here, it was uncomfortable at first since we had to sanitize our hands as much as possible and wear a mask whenever we go. But now, I feel good because it is safe to stay here in Taiwan. The controlled situation in Taiwan makes me feel confident in going out and living a normal life. I can go back to study in the class with all my classmates and have a good time with friends.”
Before entering the building, everyone has to wear a mask and show their health declaration form to the officer.
COVID-19 has taught us that no matter how difficult the situation is, we still can overcome it with proper education, actions and attitudes. Being aware of the danger and trusting each other can ease us in the combat against the pandemic that is globally ravaging .